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COVID-19: Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) explained

Link Healthcare Advantage and MatrixCare have teamed up to help give insight into what is happening within the industry and hopefully address some of those unanswered questions, that maybe you didn’t even know to ask.

COVID-19 has impacted agencies in all areas of operations. Even human resource issues have arisen that agencies may not have any prior experience managing. In this week’s blog, we will take a look at Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and see what the experts are saying about the related issues. As always, please check with your legal or accounting advisor and state-specific regulations before making decisions.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides:

  1. Paid sick leave for two weeks at employee’s regular rate of pay (if unable to work due to COVID-19 quarantine or symptoms) and two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds of employee’s regular rate of pay if unable to work due to bona fide need to care for an individual.
  2. Paid extended FMLA up to an additional ten weeks at two-thirds of employee’s regular rate if unable to work due to bonafide need for leave to care for child school or child care is closed.
  3. FFCRA leave applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.
  4. Exempted from FFCRA are businesses with less than fifty employees and only for leave related to school/daycare closures and providing leave would jeopardize the small business operations. Also, healthcare providers (includes home health) and any entity that contracts with any of the identified healthcare providers are exempt.

Questions:

  1. Our agencies have decided to offer FFCRA leave for individuals that are COVID-19 positive, is there anything that we should be aware of?
    1. Identify who qualifies for FFCRA leave. A policy reflecting the do’s and don’ts will help organizations clearly communicate the agency’s process.
      1. Example – Employees that have been exposed to COVID-19 are not eligible but employees that have tested positive for COVID-19 are eligible for two weeks paid leave during the quarantine period.
    2. Identify documentation required to be covered under FFCRA leave – the Department of Labor (DOL) guidance states employers may request the following from employees:
      1. Either in writing or orally the dates for leave, the reason for leave, and statement of why they are unable to work. If related to child care issues, please provide the name of child care or school with the date of closure and let us know that there is no other person available to care for the child.
      2. If quarantined, then please provide the name of the government entity or healthcare provider issuing or advising you to quarantine.
    3. Outline any requirements for returning to work. The recommendation is to follow the latest CDC guidelines which (as of 4/23/2020) prefer staff that has tested positive for COVID-19 to wait until they have two COVID-19 tests show negative at least twenty-four hours apart and be symptom-free. Or, if no testing is available in your area then return to work when fever-free for seventy-two hours, improvement in respiratory symptoms, and at least seven days have passed since the first symptom appeared.
    4. Address how to handle remote telework individuals; they can take intermittently leave if they meet the DOL guidelines.
  2. I have a staff member that has already used four weeks of leave prior to COVID-19 and now has requested additional leave. How much leave is she allowed?
    1. The total amount of leave is twelve weeks for FMLA or FFCRA expanded leave in a twelve-month period. So, your employee would be eligible for an additional eight weeks.
    2. FFCRA expanded FMLA leave to be in effect until December 31, 2020.
  3. Is our agency eligible for FFCRA tax credits?
    1. Agencies that provide FFCRA leave are eligible for a tax credit and should keep documentation in case of an audit. There is no written guidance on what documentation is appropriate so agencies should develop internal policies and stay tuned for any additional updates from the DOL.
  4. Our agency has had to reduce our workforce, are the employees now eligible for FFCRA?
    1. According to DOL – no. Once an employer has determined that closure or furlough is required the FFCRA ends but the employee can apply for unemployment.
  5. Are there any dollar limits on FFCRA?
    1. Yes, paid sick leave related to quarantine either by federal order or on the advice of health care practitioner or for COVID-19 symptoms with a pending medical diagnosis- the cap is $511 per day and $5,110 total over a two week period.
    2. For care-related leave (child school or daycare closure) the cap is $200 per day and $12,000 total over a twelve-week period.
  6. Do I have to hold their position?
    1. The employer needs to provide the same or nearly equivalent job to the employee once they return from leave (just like FMLA requirements). But employees on leave are not protected from layoffs that would have affected them if they were actively working.
    2. Agencies do have the right to refuse return to work in the same position if
      1. The employee is a “key employee.” FMLA defines this as a salaried employee who is among the highest-paid 10% of all employees employed and reinstatement after leave would cause substantial and grievous economic harm.
      2. The employer has less than twenty-five employees and the employee took the leave due to school or child care unavailability and four hardship conditions apply:
        1. Position no longer exists due to operating conditions as a result of COVID-19.
        2. The employer made reasonable efforts to restore the employee to the same or equivalent position.
        3. The employer makes reasonable efforts to contact the employee if an equivalent position becomes available.
        4. The employer continues to make reasonable efforts to contact employee for one year beginning either on the date of leave concludes or twelve weeks after the employee’s leave began-whichever is earlier.
  7. When did this start and when will it end?
    1. FFCRA compliance began on 4/1/2020 and is due to end on 12/31/2020.

There are many other human resource issues beyond FFCRA and in future articles, we will dive into these topics. We hope this blog post has helped your agency with COVID-19 and questions you had regarding operational dilemmas. Please send any questions to diane@linkhealthcareadvantage.com. To request a blog topic, please contact alyssa.fischer@matrixcare.com.

Learn more about how MatrixCare Home Health & Hospice is supporting providers through COVID-19 and beyond.

Disclaimer: we are not endorsing this information for accuracy or validity of the content. We encourage you as appropriate, to verify clinical and regulatory content with your own trusted sources.

 

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control (2020)  Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/return-to-work.html

Littler (4/7/2020)  Home Care Industry Coronavirus (COVID-19) Employer Frequently Asked Questions https://www.nahc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/PAI_FLY_0420_HomeCare_COVID-19_FAQ_V2.pdf

US Department of Labor (2020) Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Paid Leave Requirements https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave

US Department of Labor (2020) Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions#16

SHRM (12/18/2018) What is the FMLA Key Employee Provision? https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools


Diane Link
Diane Link

Diane Link has over 25 years of home health and hospice experience. She is currently owner of Link Healthcare Advantage, providing home health and hospice consulting services including operation assessments, survey readiness, regulatory and compliance programs, outsource QAPI program and outcome improvements. Diane is also COO and partner with Curaport, an online education platform for post-acute care providers. Her experience includes a variety of roles in home health and hospice from field nurse to executive director, and was a surveyor for home health, hospice, and private duty services for CHAP (Community Health Accreditation Partners) for the past five years as both an independent consultant and as a director of clinical consulting at a large consulting company.

Coronavirus CoVid-19 Couple old aged senior people at home with seasonal winter cold illness disease sit down on the sofa. Elderly couple in medical masks during the pandemic play chess

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